22 Apr How to Start a Business – The MEGA Guide that makes it EASY
At 9,000 words, this is NOT your usual guide to starting a business.
It’s the ultimate MEGA guide to starting a business.
It’s written to inspire, motivate and make you put words into ACTION
- To Leave Work or Not to leave work
- How to Manage the Anxiety
- How to Manage the Excitement
- The Strain on Personal Relationships
- Remember Your Family
- Sales vs Marketing
- Short Term Sales Techniques
- Long Term Growth Strategies
- How to Build Relationships and Get Networking
- Closing and Negotiating
- When You Think You’ve Got Nothing To Do – Do Marketing
Are you excited about an idea and want to start a new business?
Have you just created a business and are keen to succeed?
Or do you just need guidance in where to go next in your business?
Then this is the post for you.
Because this is the ultimate MEGA guide to starting your OWN business.
I give you EVERYTHING…
- How to research, plan and brainstorm for making the right decisions.
- How to start simple and build on what works
- How to sell, market and scale your business
That’s not all, I also tell you…
How to manage your emotions, whether it be excitement or anxiety.
How to deal with failure – I know I’ve done it.
I even give you some great references to use when growing your business
Psst. I’ll also give you tax tips that no-one tells you – BOOM!
If you make it to the end, you can even download a bonus file that will set you up for financial success.
OK, I know what you’re thinking – who is this guy and why should I listen to him?
Well before I tell you how to start a business, let me give you my story.
How I started my own Business – A real life example
If you want to get straight to the practical tips, feel free to:
In 2008, I had an idea…
I wanted to create a personalised greeting cards company that had a strong brand and did a few innovative things. Because the industry was set to grow.
It would be a website that reminded customers when to send their cards out and add their orders to a built-in calendar.
I didn’t know where to go next but knew it would be an online business called Cardly.co.uk.
I thought the slogan “Cardly ever forget a birthday” was really cool.
It’s easy to get carried away with the slogan the first time you set up a business.
So, I just opened a word document and wrote Cardly.co.uk Business Plan.
Everything snowballed from there.
I sorted a loan from the bank, negotiated with possible suppliers and met with various development companies.
It was HUGELY EXCITING. And here’s a couple of images from when I received my VERY FIRST order
I made lots of naïve choices.
Like thinking I didn’t want to use WordPress because my business was going to be bigger than that.
Wanting a bespoke website that could do EVERYTHING.
It really didn’t need to be anything as complicated as that.
I would recommend WordPress to EVERY small business who wants a website.
Reasons for that are for are simple – you can get a website up in a day. It’s the marketing that’s the hard part!
This one decision cost me a lot of time, money and effort.
The problems started pretty soon. And they never really stopped.
I chose the worst development company ever. Twice.
Communication with them was terrible, and it took them 6 months to put a crap website together.
Oh, and in the end it wasn’t even a bespoke one at that.
6 months of wasted effort to end up with a terrible website for an ONLINE BUSINESS!
So, I basically decided to start again.
I built my own website, while also smashing the hell out of SEO and Google rankings.
I read this 400-page book to learn it:
Pretty soon things were on a much better track.
I started making good money, but not enough to leave my full-time job.
I had to deliver the orders after work – every day.
No holidays for me!
But still, I was pleased about the direction things were going, and really happy about cracking SEO without having to go to an SEO Company. And getting to Rank No. 1 in Google for handmade cards – even if I did use spammy techniques – MISTAKE!
Yeah . . . . about that.
When I uploaded my new website, I didn’t match up the URL’s – big mistake!
Overnight I lost my rankings and almost lost the business.
If your traffic disappears then most of your orders dry up. It’s as simple as that.
It’s the same if you rely on one source of traffic and lose it.
Google’s algorithms had changed at a similar time and my search engine positions dropped pages down.
Nobody found the site, and so nobody bought cards.
Apart from previous happy customers. Because my customer service was ALWAYS top notch!
In hindsight I should have seen this coming and developed better, longer-lasting content.
I should have acted on best practices to ensure my site was technically relevant.
What I now know as ‘Influencer Marketing’.
I should have spent more time building lists and social media followings and shaping the business around repeat customers.
But it is hard to do all of this when you’re soooo keen and want immediate success.
But black hat techniques that work today almost definitely WON’T work tomorrow.
I was lucky though, and I worked hard to turn things around.
Then in 2015 I sold Cardly to an investor.
It was tough to let go but I had to admit – it was time to move on.
Cardly was my first shot at being an entrepreneur – it was where I learned my first, and the biggest, lessons.
It’s hard to walk away from something you’ve built from the ground up.
But you have to see it as moving on to something bigger.
I learned from all my mistakes with Cardly and set up a business analysis company, ba-guru.com.
I took 3 key lessons from Cardly into ba-guru.com:
- Keep it simple and build on what works
- Spread your sales channels
- Stay in your job if you’re still learning
Number 3 often surprises people.
Sounds strange but I truly believe that working for multi-billion-pound businesses for nearly 10 years has got me where I am today.
And you can’t get that experience when you’re just starting out without any clients or customers.
Using these lessons, I turned to a new plan, ba-guru.com. I took it from nothing into a very successful blog, and then moved on to set up OG Guru Digital Marketing Agency.
I’ve never looked back!
So that’s my story – now let’s create yours!
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It all starts with a plan and some research into whether your business is viable.
The amount of research needed will depend on your business idea and your current level of knowledge.
But if you don’t do this, you won’t move to the next stage and probably never set up your business.
Just writing a few words down on paper will give you the motivation to move forward to the next task. Each section of your plan will require you to do thorough research because you probably don’t know too much about the industry you’re looking to enter right now.
Let’s look at the process so you know what you’ll be working towards.
Don’t try and make it perfect as you really do only need notes to begin with.
See your business plan as a living document that you will come back to when you need to make new decisions.
This can get very complicated, very quickly. So keep it super simple.
Split your business plan into these sections. See below for a much more detailed outline.
They aren’t all vital on day one, but you need to be thinking about them sooner rather than later.
I even use this as a folder structure for my business because it makes me realise that I need to spread my work between these areas.
I know these are my key priorities, and I can’t let any single one of them slip.
Managing a business is about making decisions.
Lots of decisions.
Having a simple framework like this, shows you, at a glance, what you need to be thinking about and acting on.
Doing this for my clients allows me to make sure I’m really helping their business to grow.
Ideally you should make a simple document with these sections to start your business plan, and fill bits of it in as you go through this guide.
Start working towards something like this
When you start your plan, define your vision first.
Every section of your plan will be defined by your vision.
It will even help you when you need to make tough decisions.
Again, don’t worry if it’s not perfect, the best way to define your business is to get on and DO – or even better BUY and SELL.
We’ll return to it later and see what it’s looking like.
I’ll also take a deeper look at the Finance section – the bit that no one truly likes
But for now, let’s get the ideas flowing…
What’s the Big Startup Business Idea?
Brainstorm Your Business Ideas
You can’t start a business without an idea of what you want to do.
After I sold Cardly (discussed earlier), I didn’t know what to do next.
The business had had its ups and downs, but it started from a really clear idea.
All of a sudden, I was STUCK in the MUD
I needed another one.
Here’s what I did:
I knew I had a set of skills and experience now, as well as a little more money to cover myself, so I needed to pick a new direction.
I brainstormed using post-it notes and stuck them to my bedroom wall – here’s what they said:
What experience did I have?
- Business analysis
- Statistical analysis
- 6 Sigma project management
- Waterfall project management
- Online marketing
- Building websites
How did I gain my experience?
- From 7 years in a full-time job at the Co-op
- In corporate meetings
- On multi-million-pound projects
- Learning by doing
- Building and selling Cardly on the side
What kind of projects have I worked on?
- Online growth strategies
- Business process mapping
- Systems and business analysis
After going over the material a few times, a common thread started to emerge.
I had it! It immediately gave me the What, How and Why. BISH BASH BOSH!
I now needed to build on those strengths and create a service that I have the skills and experience to achieve.
I had to take the business analysis skills I’d acquired at my job and find a new market for them for whom my track record would be valuable.
My experience with Cardly meant I knew what it took to be proactive, focussed and as efficient as possible (another advantage of building a business on the side in limited time).
So, I created ba-guru.com and took the next step in my entrepreneurial journey.
To be the number one resource for Business Analysis on the web
To share the world’s business analysis knowledge every day.
I read an article from Backlinko. This gave me a massive boost of confidence for my online growth strategies.
So, I took it and built up ba-guru.com following into the thousands in real quick time.
Now it’s your turn – although everyone’s situation is different, my number one piece of advice is to build on your strengths.
• What can you already do better than most?
• What skills do you have?
• Why do you have these skills?
• What projects can you discuss or show people as evidence of your ability?
• And also think about what you like doing – this really matters.
Brainstorm your past and build a service around it, then do your marketing and growth plans.
This is even more important of you want to grow online.
Because growing online is all about proving YOU’RE the expert in YOUR industry – that’s what makes people want to buy from YOU.
Share your knowledge online. Build your profile. I’ll explain how and why in the Marketing section.
Picking the name of your business can be tough.
I often think the name shouldn’t matter. It’s what you do with it that counts.
But so many names are taken that it could be tough to find one that’s available. Especially if you want the domain name. And by gum you do!
Once you have your name, plaster it EVERYWHERE.
• Companies House (or the equivalent body in your country)
• Mailing list subscription details
• Official letterhead
• Legal papers
• Email Footers
So, to create the right impression (or at least, to not give the wrong impression) spend some time on the name!
Ideally it needs to be unique and memorable. Often the less syllables the better -But again that’s tough too.
Brainstorm a load of ideas first – just any old thing that comes to you – and then try and narrow down the list.
You could even use www.BUSINESSNAME.com.
There’s no right or wrong way to pick a name for your business. Just find one you like and run with it.
With that done, you can get your brand designed and business model setup. Here’s how.
Choose your Colours – Design a Logo
Doing this properly at kick off will give you a clear, consistent feel to your business.
Note: Doing it properly doesn’t mean spending LOADS of money.
Here’s how to create some very simple business design guidelines
1. Choose 2 colours that have a similar tone to them
2. Put 2 blocks on the page next to each other
3. Choose 2 fonts
a. One for the headers
b. One for the paragraphs
Here’s the Online Growth Guru design guidelines as an example
Download the Photoshop Version of this so you don’t need to start from scratch
Don’t spend hundreds of pounds on getting your logo perfect.
Look at the OG Guru logo, it uses the colours and simply has a box round a specific font – If you downloaded the template, you’ll know which font it is.
Happy with the brand? Now for the models.
Get a Quick Start in business by Freelancing
Read this section if you want a quick-fire way of starting your first business.
Got an idea for a product-based business?
That’s fine, but there can be much more to think about. And it can take a lot longer before it will fund your life.
So, think about it carefully. We’ll look at some fast sales opportunities for products soon.
Selling products FAST is doable and using companies like Amazon make it easier every day, but if you simply want to start your own business, and don’t have a clear non-service idea, read this section now.
Your best option:
START BY FREELANCING.
Getting started by freelancing is probably the quickest way to get a business up and running.
All you need to do is take a skill you have that someone else will pay for, and then go to market.
Then the only challenge you have is scalability. I’ll tell you how to overcome that in a minute.
It’s a very simple business model.
Just start as simple as possible – find one person willing to pay you one time to solve one problem with one skill you have.
Do a good job, get paid, ask for a short review on Google (just a sentence will do) and for any referrals, and you have the basis of a client network and a portfolio.
You can improve your Business Plan, Brand and Vision as you work on your first few projects. Yes! That’s where the late nights come in.
Building a Business Model
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As a first-time entrepreneur it should be very simple.
Businesses that grow the biggest often have a simple business model and streamlined processes.
Small ones can’t have a complex business model.
They can’t afford to!
If you are freelancing or starting with a service, there’s only a few questions to answer:
• Will I charge per project or per time period (e.g. by the day or by the hour)?
• Note it’s tough to charge by the project if you don’t know how long something will take.
• What will my minimum price be for any piece of work?
• At what point in the project will I charge – or expect the money to come in?
• Tip: invoice at least 14 days before you expect to be paid
• How will I facilitate the payment and what are the terms?
• First business bank account? Find one that’s free.
When you have a more complicated business the question list is longer – but for now, as I say about EVERYTHING
“Start as simple as possible and build on what works.”
So now you should have the foundations of an idea in place.
I’m going to give you the step by step of Marketing, Operations and the 5 MOST important KPIs to track in any business.
But before you crack on with that, let’s have a look at the side of building a company that people don’t always discuss.
Home Truths, Uncomfortable Questions and Downright Lies
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You’re never going to progress unless we first cut through some of the crap that surrounds this whole area.
It’s even mentioned in the latest book I’m reading
Even if you’re positive these issues will ever affect you, you should still be aware of them.
Plus, there’s a reasonable chance you’ll be wrong!
So let’s get into it.
To Leave Work or Not to leave work?
That is the big question and probably one of the hardest to answer AND execute.
Here’s the truth…
You don’t need to leave your job. Sound strange?
I always planned to, once my own business could cover my costs, but I didn’t jump in straight away.
This is real life after all – you’ve got bills to pay, rent to meet and, yes, fun to have!
The simple fact is that unless you are 100% dependent on someone else, you’re going to need money in the bank before you take the leap.
You might be living with parents, rent-free, who also pay all your bills (everything from water, and the internet to your mobile phone) and put food on the table.
That’s great! Hell, if people can’t spend money on their kids, then who can they spend it on?
But even if you are in this position, think about whether you actually do spend money.
Look back over the last month – surely you paid cash for something right?
Any Amazon purchases?
Any beers down the pub?
A train or bus ticket perhaps?
Even people with pretty much everything taken care of still need to spend some money.
So first up, whatever your situation – take a look at your monthly expenses and try and work out how much cash you really need.
This is your target monthly income, after tax and any business expenses.
Here’s a snap shot of mine that I dug out just for this post.
Bear in mind the values were from a long time ago, so you need to take into account, dare I say it, INFLATION!
In case you noticed? Yes, I did get a loan off my mum, but it wasn’t much. So I had to account for my repayments.
Then have a look at your savings or spare cash.
And ONLY the savings that you are actually willing to spend (no dipping into that long-term wedding or house fund!)
How many months can you last before earning a penny?
This will give you an idea of whether you can quit your job or not.
If you can cover yourself for six months, then you might think it is a good idea.
Can you negotiate a full 6 month contract before you work.
If you don’t, then this could be messy. You might make nothing in month 1, make a quarter of your target monthly income in months 2 and 3, and then make half of it in month 4.
Well you’ve now bought yourself another month! Good work.
If you decide to stay in a job, then working out your target monthly income is also important, as it can tell you how much you need to be making in your new business before you make the leap.
But there are also other benefits to staying in your job.
If it is in a related area to your business then you’ll make connections and build both experience and a body of achievements that can be used to your advantage in your business.
Even if your job is in another area, you could still be learning lots of transferable skills about work that can be used in the future.
Make no mistake, it’s never going to be an easy decision to quit or not.
Maybe planning out more aspects of your business first could help!
Already left your job? Fantastic news – here’s just a few of the emotions that will slap you in the face. Probably immediately.
Managing the Anxiety
You’re practically on your own now. Things will be tough.
No matter who you are or what your business is about, you are going to have doubts, stress, let downs, problems and failures.
If you’re freelancing, it’s not unlikely to have doubts at the start of your projects.
Someone once said to me:
Don’t worry about the long-term impossibilities – You just make sure you get your next payment – SO TRUE!
Making mistakes or failing to live up to the standards you have set yourself can be demoralising and stressful.
Having to sell and sell fast can make you feel insecure.
If you don’t acknowledge and work on these issues, they can start to get wrapped into your opinion of the business itself.
Working on it may not feel exciting any more.
I can’t give blanket advice to help you with all these challenges as the individual circumstances will be different every time.
But here are a few things that have worked for me:
Fake it ‘till you make it – seriously! How often do we hear that the key is confidence? Well, does the salesman who answers the phone with a bright and cheery ‘Good morning!’ do so because he’s confident? Or is he confident because he’s just answered the phone with a bright and cheery ‘Good morning!’? Sometimes faking it works!
Although there are many downsides, from a personal point of view, to starting a business, the potential benefits are incredible.
Go into this with your eyes open and don’t shy away from dealing with anxieties and pressures when they arise.
Manage the Excitement
You’ll be shocked how fast you can go from anxious to excited – I was.
Definitely celebrate your successes but don’t get complacent.
Nothing is certain until the money is in your bank account.
Everything gets delayed, projects that look a dead cert will never happen, and things you build will never get finished or used.
Get used to this. Business is messy!
Don’t get too excited with any minor success along the way.
Don’t ignore them – feeling like you are accomplishing things is important – but don’t get carried away.
You see, a successful project isn’t certain when you get an enquiry, when your proposal is approved, when the work is signed off or even when you submit an invoice.
Nothing is certain until the money is in your bank account.
And don’t stop looking for new opportunities just because you have some current work (see the section on marketing).
An empty pipeline makes an empty bank account.
Don’t count on anything or anyone – trust needs to be earned, and you need to accept, as a business owner, that everything is your responsibility.
And you’ll be busy – in fact you’ll probably tell some people that you have no time for anything.
But then something will crop up that will make you realise that you do have time . . . if the task is important enough.
This will usually be when money doesn’t make it to your bank account.
One day you’ll get an email saying something like; “I’m sorry, your invoice (you know – the one you need to get paid before rent day) had the wrong reference number, please update it and send back to us.”
I don’t care if you have 19 meetings scheduled for the same half an hour, you’ll find time to update and send that invoice.
It is your responsibility.
Because nothing is certain until the money is in your bank account.
The Strain on Personal Relationships
Starting a business is exciting. Chances are, you will want to work 24/7.
It takes long hours and lots of energy.
So what if the people closest to you aren’t on board?
As an entrepreneur you are the one who will have to commit to what building a business takes.
But the people around you will also be affected, and it is important to try and work together to make things better for both (or all) of you.
Probably one of the most common issues is when a business owner’s partner doesn’t quite share they same vision or priorities.
This is a difficult situation, but here’s a few things you can do:
Be proactive and open about scheduling in togetherness
If you plan everything, including work tasks, at the last minute then you’ll never have time for anything.
When things aren’t scheduled in then clashes are inevitable.
That evening you’ve set aside to catch up on invoices is also the same evening your boyfriend planned to take you for dinner.
The Saturday morning you suddenly need to use to finalise an important client proposal has already been scheduled by your wife to go and visit some friends.
This will happen more often than you think if you don’t take the time to share diaries every once in a while, and plan out the next few days, weeks and months, to varying degrees.
Set Some Non-Negotiables
In order to make sure that you do spend enough time with the people close to you, make certain things non-negotiable.
Regardless of what is on your schedule or theirs, these things need to get done.
This might be a simple dinner once a week on the same day (that’s how we do it in my house!), activities with the kids on Mondays, Wednesday and Sunday, or one weekend away a quarter.
Whatever works for you.
And non-negotiables don’t just have to be about certain times of the week.
Perhaps you make sharing the cooking equally a non-negotiable.
Or maybe dealing with the household business is always done together.
Perhaps it is a joint activity like playing tennis that you schedule in for a different time each week by booking a court.
Build your schedule around certain non-negotiables and you have a great foundation for balance in your life.
Let Them In
If you don’t discuss your business’ details openly with your significant other, you can’t expect them to understand and appreciate the importance of some of the things you have to get done.
I’m lucky – My partner is also passionate about digital marketing.
If yours doesn’t know why you’re working late – all they see is an empty place at the dinner table.
Explain the importance and potential of this client, project, marketing initiative or administrative task, and it will be much easier for them to accept that you have to spend time on it.
You never know, perhaps they can help!
Building a business is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster – I know it’s a cliché but things really are up and down a lot.
Remember Your Family
Every time you meet your family, you will want to talk about your business.
So much so that they’ll probably think it is all you talk about.
Don’t worry if they make fun of you – they’re your family remember!
But remember this…
When everything comes crashing down, it is them that will be there for you.
Don’t, under any circumstances, forget that.
Keep in touch with them during growth, and they will help out during hardships.
It sounds strange but I know people who have set up a business and been that excited that they shut themselves away from the world around them – their family – their friends.
This doesn’t work out in the long term.
Sharing the trials and tribulations with the people closest to you will really help.
And you should do this from day one – right from when you first plan out your big idea.
You will NEVER fully appreciate those feelings without actually setting up a business.
Ready to handle these emotions? Cool, now you need to
SELL. SELL. SELL.
So let’s get started – here’s how.
Marketing and Business Development
Chances are, doing these properly will be the SINGLE thing that determines the success or failure of your new business.
So if you don’t read any other section. Do read this section…
Sales vs Marketing
This is the cream on top of your business – if you can’t do it, go back to work.
Sales is about making the sale NOW.
Marketing is about future-proofing your business to make sales on autopilot. Well, sort of.
You need both.
Lots of people think setting up a website is a cheap, quick way of making sales.
It can be cheap, but just building a website ain’t gonna make you a million quid over night. It just isn’t.
At least, not unless you put £000’s into using a PPC Agency – which means it wouldn’t be cheap!
Here’s how you can MASSIVELY accelerate your results from sales and marketing.
My long-term strategy is the every reason I’m writing this post.
Over time, it will grow in the search engines and raise the profile of Online Growth Guru – BANG!
It won’t make me rich tomorrow though.
Getting eyeballs on your offer immediately is absolutely key.
There’s an old saying that goes ‘in business nothing happens until someone sells something.’
And it couldn’t be more true.
In fact, in the early days, you should really spend a disproportionate amount of time getting that first sale.
At the same time, you can start to build a marketing system for the future.
So how do you do it?
The options are endless when it comes to marketing your new business.
The strategy takes into account where you are today and where you want to be in the future.
The plan explains step-by-step how you are going to get there.
As always, don’t make these two things more complicated than they need to be.
If you’re just starting out then the strategy might be to become an established freelancer.
Pretty simple, Hey?
But go a bit deeper and define what ‘established’ really means for you.
It could mean: a portfolio of 10 clients with gradually increasing project values, and a pipeline of 20 more leads.
That is a strategy that is clear and easy to understand.
Meaning that is simple to build a plan for.
You need a client. And then you need to use the experience and reference from that client to get a second, slightly larger, client.
Eventually you’ll need to be attracting multiple potential clients, but this takes time, so let’s start on that now too.
The detail in the plan is made up of business development tasks.
You need to spread these between different communication techniques and channels.
By doing so, you can become present in more places to the same people (because we rarely buy from someone that we’ve only just heard about once) and you can learn what works to improve the approach.
Short Term Sales Techniques
There are many different business development tasks, but here are the main ones you will probably consider:
Build your website
BUILDING your website is short term. Growing it? That’s long term!
Create a website that is simple. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to spend thousands of pounds on building a super complex website.
Even if you plan to have your website as the main sales engine, get something live – NOW.
Onlinegrowthguru.com went live after one week. And me and my team have not stopped improving it since.
Tell 10 people you know, you’re in business.
And ask them to tell 5 people they know that you’re in business.
Think about it. You probably know lots of people. On LinkedIn? Facebook?
In fact, don’t just share the fact you’re in business.
Pick up the phone, give them a call. Explain to them the services you’re offering and if they know anyone who needs what you offer.
Remember though, quality over quantity still applies.
Don’t just mailshot everyone on your years old Hotmail account or in your phone book. That won’t work.
Chances are they don’t need what you have.
But, if you ask 5 people if they know 5 people who may want your service. You could immediately have 25 leads.
Not only that. You also have a name of someone they trust.
You’ll see in a minute why having a name is GOLD DUST when cold calling.
Build Relationships and Get networking
The simple fact is, when it comes to success in business development;
People buy people.
– And that should motivate you
If you accept that the strength of your network is going to be a huge factor in your success, then it’s obvious what you need to do;
TIP: Build a stronger network!
This doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult. A good contact, and even a great client, can come from anywhere.
It all begins with relationships.
Building relationships is a key part of drumming up business. Having strong relationships means you don’t need to hard sell all the time – here’s why:
If someone tells you something about their challenges, remember it, then ask them about it next time you see them.
Here’s an example:
How I got a client while making coffee
In October 2017 I met an American guy who was handing over parts of his office to me – he told me his business was based in America but he was living in Manchester, UK. Immediately I thought there’s a time zone challenge.
2 months later..
I brushed passed him and simply said “How’s comms with America?” Before I knew it we were talking about websites and servers. A week later we were working together on his PPC campaigns. It’s was literally as quick as that.
Here’s another example:
How I got a client while playing football
I play football once a week. One of the guys there told me he was starting to work with a PPC Company
. I didn’t go in for the hard sell at that moment but I did let him know that I know everything about that PPC services and to give me a shout when he sees some results.
6 weeks later…
I simply said “How’s your Adwords campaign going?” We got talking in detail, set up a meeting and now we’re working on a full marketing strategy for his business.
Of course, there’s a bit more to networking than simply trying to find clients through the people you already know, or see outside of work.
Networking is about deliberately and proactively finding opportunities to meet the right people.
And then convincing them to take the next step.
That might mean arranging a meeting, scheduling a phone call, or promising to read an email.
But there’s a few essential points about networking that I see people get wrong ALL the time.
DON’T be the stranger
Networking is long term really.
Don’t just randomly visit different networking events expecting people there to remember you and your business – they won’t. If you really want to build strong relationships you need to be attending the same event and seeing the same people for 3-6 months minimum. And then you can decide your fate.
Come up with a consistent way of telling people what you do and, even more importantly WHY you do it.
Then wherever you go say the same thing to anyone who asks. Even if you’re in a pub or at a sports match – you never know where the next big project is.
Sign up for Public Speaking
Don’t be afraid of this! It’s massive in proving your expertise to the people around you.
In fact, after my very first presentation I got my second client and have worked with them ever since. It all but ensured I didn’t have to go back to work.
Remember if you get it slightly wrong, people won’t remember, they’ll move on with their own lives or, even better, they may want to help you improve.
If you get it right, you WILL thrive.
So when you join a networking group, the moment you get the chance to speak in front of a few people. DO IT.
Make Cold calls and Send Cold emails
Find someone who needs what you have and get in touch with them.
You’ll get neglected.
But keep going and tweaking your approach – eventually you’ll get there.
Also stay organised.
Don’t contact the same person with the same cold message twice.
Keep track of who you speak to and any useful information that they tell you, or that you find out.
[download my cold calling scripts here]
It lists the top responses from the person who answers and how you should respond to every one of them.
Or go one step further and read this book – I did.
Attend Trade shows, conferences and other events
This is particularly great for e-commerce businesses. Especially if you want people to see your products NOW.
Organised events are a great opportunity to showcase your business, but again, there is usually a cost for this.
To work out whether this approach would work well for you, attend a few events first, as a guest, and pay attention to what the businesses presenting there are doing.
Long Term Growth Strategies
Grow your website
Grow a lead-generating or sales-machine of a website.
This takes time, but it is possible.
In the early days you should keep your website very simple – just a few pages with the main info about you and your business is fine.
Chances are nobody is ever going to read unless you’ve sent them a link directly.
But over time, if you can add more content in a strategic way that answers your clients’ problems and challenges, you can start to generate traffic.
And with the right material and tools, traffic can be turned clients.
Think of this part of your business development as a long-term game.
It isn’t your number one priority today, but you also can’t neglect it.
Here’s an example of the number of opportunities you could be missing out on.
For this example, I use the keyword ‘COFFEE’
Use Offline media
Believe it or not there is still a place for things like flyers, leaflets, brochures, posters and other kinds of offline media.
A well-made piece reaching the right person at the right time could easily spark a conversation.
Offline materials come at a cost of course – so factor that in.
You also need to consider how you will get them in the hands of the people that you want to become your clients.
You can post them of course, but that’s another cost, and there’s no guarantee they’ll open, let alone read them.
It would be better to find a specific time and place when you know your target market will be there, and see your material.
Build your personal brand
I don’t have hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. But I do have quality followers who are likely to share my content.
You can’t go from zero to hero overnight.
But you can prove how much knowledge and expertise you have with continuous self promotion.
Think of your brand as what people say about you when you aren’t in the room.
It is the intangible stuff – the feeling that your business gives people, the sort of prestige attached to your name.
It takes time to develop, but it is a powerful thing.
A brand has value.
A single best-selling book, smash hit TED talk, viral video or even a popular Medium article – can all be the basis of a personal brand.
Think about what you want people to say about you when you aren’t in the room.
And try and live up to that.
Read this: Short Term vs Long Term Sales Strategy
How to Negotiate and Close the Deal
Once you have a sales opportunity, you need to close it.
As a freelancer, this usually involves some sort of proposal.
They can take a while, particularly the first few times.
As usual, keep it simple.
A 1-2 page pdf, with a nice layout on a branded document, could be all you need.
Try to answer every question the customer has.
If there are any problems with the brief, ask about these beforehand.
Put your cost proposal on there too.
But be ready to negotiate.
Some say you can’t run a business without skills in negotiation.
Yes, negotiating saves you money in the short term.
But if you’re keen to grow as an entrepreneur, negotiating now will also give you huge confidence for the bigger deals you will make in the future.
This is a tricky skill to learn and it does take practice.
Start by knowing exactly how low you’re willing to go.
And don’t be unhappy if you get pushed down there.
But walk away if you get pushed further. And always be prepared to walk away.
Also negotiate with your own suppliers too.
Even if it doesn’t save you much, its good practice!
Don’t go into a negotiation without knowing EVERYTHING about their problem.
Then for your proposal – Personalise but simplify.
[Download a copy of my proposal documents here]
When You Think You’ve Got Nothing To Do – Do Marketing
I shouldn’t need to say this, but I’ve heard many business owners say “I don’t have customers yet so there’s not much to do right now.”
That’s BULL S**T.
When you run a business there’s NEVER nothing to do.
There won’t be any customers if you aren’t marketing.
So build a way for you to always be marketing – but that doesn’t demand more from you than you get in return.
Let me explain.
How many companies start a blog, publish 5 posts, then stop?
2 years later someone sees their site and looks at the blog post dates.
They think. ‘hmm is this company even operating any more?’
The reason people stop blogging is because they didn’t get much out of it at the start, and they tried to put too much in.
You don’t need to post once a week, or even once a month, to get results.
If you try to do that you’ll just make low quality content.
You might be better off using Twitter, sending out some emails, or gradually building up really valuable content.
Whatever has shown in the past to get better results.
But don’t do nothing!
How to Start Everyday Business Operations
How will your business actually work?
What do you have to do, day in day out in order to be successful?
It takes time to improve your operations.
And they will change as you progress.
Two key things here.
How to Make it Scalable – Keep it Lean
Keep costs low
Even though I said Freelancing is a great way to make quick money, here’s the catch.
A business that relies solely on YOU is NOT scalable.
Here’s an example…
I know a masseuse who is the best in the business.
She earns a fair whack for being the best. But she’s nearing retirement and if she doesn’t work she doesn’t get paid – simple.
By choosing a business that can be scaled, you are setting yourself up for earning without working.
Who doesn’t want to be in that situation?
If you think you could be a consultant, that’s great and there’s lots of tips about that on this website https://www.consultingsuccess.com/about.
But create a path out of consulting and toward a business that doesn’t need you.
That’ your exit strategy. If you’re young it might seem years away.
But start working on it now and you’ll be in a better place in the future.
How to Record Your Operations
If you write down how your operations work it is easier to improve them.
It is also easier to teach other people about them.
The more that is just in your head, the harder it is to explain how your business works.
And the harder it is to grow.
Write out the typical steps you take to run your business, covering everything:
- Getting new clients
- Agreeing new projects
- Setting up the work
- Deliver the results
- Charging and receiving payments
- Doing all of the back office admin to keep things ticking over
When you write it down in black and white things can be a lot clearer to you.
Recording your operations is the first step towards what should be your end goal: Financial Freedom
How to Finance a new business
If you’ve made it this far in the post, you’re clearly keen to start your business. Don’t do it before reading this.
Finance is BY FAR the most important part of business.
That’s why in this section, I’m giving you templates to manage your cashflow and profit/loss account.
I also give you a cool way of reducing your tax. Especially if you don’t leave work.
Tracking your progress with KPIs
Key performance indicators (KPIs) sound complicated – but they really don’t need to be.
Take a step back and look at all the different metrics and measurements you can collect about your business.
This could be web traffic, leads, number of contacts in CRM, number of email subscribers, weekly/monthly/annual income and profit, expenses (broken down into categories) and on and on.
Now strip back all of those that aren’t necessary, or that you can’t directly change.
We always like to talk with clients about the 5 money metrics. And they are what you should be thinking about when planning your business:
- Number of leads
How many people are you attracting to your product or service?
A lead might be someone who clicks on a product page, or who fills in a web form.
- Number of conversions
How many of those leads actually?
You can calculate a conversion rate as simply being the number of sales as a percentage of the number of leads.
If you have 100 leads and make 10 sales, your conversion rate is 10%.
- Average sale value
Work out how much each customer actually spends, on average.
Knowing how much an average sale is worth will help you to develop strategies to increase that amount.
- Number of times a customer orders
Encouraging repeat orders should be another important goal.
Do you have multiple products or services that your target market needs?
Are you making sure you’re telling them about everything you have to offer?
- Profit margin
Finally, take your costs of each sale into account.
And make you sure you cost up everything; marketing/ad spend, administration, shipping, invoicing, fulfilment, tax, etc. etc.
It all counts.
Make the best estimates you can and you’ll have a clear picture of how much income each sale actually makes.
The 5 money metrics make it simpler to track the things that really matter in your business.
They also give you clear goals for growth.
In fact, you can actually increase profits by more than 50% when you increase each of the 5 money metrics by just 10%. Do you have an online marketing strategy that balances your efforts across the money metrics?
Financing your startup
Do you need cash to start a business?
The answer is . . . . maybe.
You can get a freelancing business up and running for free.
Assuming you have access to a laptop with the internet and some basic Office-type software, you can just get a free wordpress.com website, a free gmail.com email address and away you go!
Of course, that won’t look totally professional.
Your own domain website is better (meaning you need to buy both the URL and website hosting).
Same for your email address.
Plus, do you need any specialist software?
Any office space or equipment?
And then there is the cost of living that you’ll need to cover.
So have a think about how you will actually pay for everything – and browse through the different approaches you can take below.
DIY – Start with your own cash
You can build a company from the ground up with your own cash.
You just need to make sure you can cover your costs, and have a little left over.
It gives you a lot of freedom and flexibility.
Earlier we talked about having a target monthly income – so factor that in here.
How much money can you realistically afford to put aside for this business?
How can you cut costs and trim things right back to just the essentials?
This is bootstrapping, and it’s a great option for a new small business.
There are many ways to get investment, though not all of them are relevant for a small business.
Traditional bank loans can work, but it might be hard to find one you are eligible for.
Startup loans can be really good option. I used a start up loan when I started Cardly.
These usually have less stringent eligibility and payback conditions.
You could also consider crowdfunding – getting small amounts of money from lots of different people. You need a GREAT idea though.
If you need investment, try and get some advice from experienced people about what the best option for your business.
- Go to events where likeminded people are hanging out,
- Search for founder insights from people with similar businesses, and
- Contact local business mentors and support networks.
There’s no right or wrong way so be open to hearing different approaches.
There’s no getting around it. You have to do your accounts!
I use Xero for my accounting which makes it easy.
There are a range of these systems, but they have similar features.
Accurate accounts are not only essential from a legal perspective, but they are great for business too.
They usually work in the cloud, and enable you to collaborate with your accountant really easily.
When you know exactly how much you are making and spending, you can make better decisions.